Thu. Feb 15th, 2024




“In a remote area of Pennsylvania, Skylar

Neese was stabbed fifty times with a

kitchen knife.”


“Hello,” someone said from behind me. I

turned to find a girl racing up the stairs to

meet me.

“Hello,” I said.

“Congratulations on cracking the mystery,”

she said.

“I didn’t solve the mystery,” I said. “Raheem


The girl’s eyes twinkled. “Oh, the hot Arab

guy, right? Even though he did all the work

himself, at least you were seen with him a

number of times. That’s something. I’m

sorry for Nengi. But she got what she


“I guess.” Turning away, I continued up the

stairs. I counted silently, hoping she would

take the cue and shut up.

“How was it?” she asked.


“Crime solving?”

I heaved a sigh of relief as I neared my

class room. A smile creeping to my face, I

waved her goodbye. Vanishing from the

meddling girl’s sight, I prayed I wouldn’t

have more meddlers ruining my day.

The classroom only had one soul in it.

Cynthia. As usual, I’d lingered in the

parking lot after our driver dropped us off,

just so I could be behind her. She hurled a

chocolate bar in her mouth and glared at

me with a heavy emotion I prayed would

melt someday.

“Well done,” she mock-commended.

“Thank you,” I played along.

“Do you have any idea what you have just

done, you idiot?”

What had I done except enable the serving

of justice? “I don’t know. Care to refresh

my memory?”

I didn’t expect her to reply. But she did.

“They are going to plant CCTVs all over the


For a moment I thought she would cry. Her

voice sounded like it. Why did they all fear

the cameras? As long as they weren’t

installed in the stalls, I didn’t see anything

to worry about.

“Relax,” I said. “It’s not so bad. The Bloody

Miri game just has to end is all.”

She shook her head in disbelief. “I can’t

believe you did that. Hand that innocent girl

over to the authorities.”

“Last time I checked, attempted murder

didn’t count as innocence.”

“Friends fight, you idiot. Friends fight and

it’s normal!”

“Lives were at stake,” I said. And the girl

had a motive for murder. Although Raheem

hadn’t given her a chance to explain it all, I

had a feeling this had to do with Henry.

Sauntering to my seat, I settled in it. Time

crept like a snail. Other members of the

class streaked in, each one too eager to

give me a piece of his mind.

“The thunder that will strike you is still

doing press up,” a boy said.

“Did Nengi do something to you in the past

life?” I heard another ask. “Anyone can see

you have something against her.”

“Thanks to you, there will be cameras in the

restroom,” a girl said. “Clap for yourself.”

Comments struck me from all angles. And

although I tried hard to pay them no heed,

success slithered from my grasp. Had we

been too rash in analyzing Doreen’s attack?

I would exit the classroom to put an end to

these comments, but going outside would

expose me to the rest of the school, and I

didn’t want that. In a few minutes, the bell

would go off for first period. I would

survive. Or so I thought.

We had English for first period and if I knew

Madam Charity well enough, I knew she

would spend close to half of her time

discussing about yesterday’s events.

Spending my morning in the sickbay didn’t

sound too bad an idea.

Grabbing my backpack, I made to get up

when I saw Doreen on the threshold. She

stared at me with a wounded look in her

eyes. With a weak smile, I ushered her in.

A smile graced her face as the advanced to

me. “Hi.”

“Hey,” I said. Quiet ensued. And I didn’t

want it stretching even further. “How are


“I’m fine,” she said, sitting beside me.

Once again, silence stole us over. We just

kept gazing at the whiteboard. I knew she

had come to express gratitude, but she

couldn’t bring herself to start.

I turned to look at her, the dark circles

around her eyes catching my attention. “Did

you sleep at all?”

“How could I?” she asked. “My best friend is

somewhere horrible.”

“It’s not your fault,” I said. “You shouldn’t

punish yourself.”

“I know. It’s not my fault. But I can’t help

it.” Touching her chest, she went on,

“Somewhere in here, I’m half-pleased she

was brought to justice. But thinking like

this makes me feel like a monster. I’m

betraying her, aren’t I?”

“You’re not,” I said. “She committed a

crime. You should not feel sorry for

someone who tried to kill you. She had a

choice and she chose this.”

“But still—”

“But nothing! What if you had died?”

Her chest heaved as she swiped at a lone

tear sliding down her cheek. “My best friend

wanted me dead. Who can I trust now?”

“Don’t lose faith in humanity,” I said.

“There are good people out there, trust


Doreen shook her head with every strength

she had, as though shaking off my words.

“You don’t understand. She was like a sister

to me. We’ve been bestfriends ever since

we met in our freshman year.”

I understood. Nengi was to her what

Amarachi was to me. Amarachi’s doing this

to me would be a nightmare I needed to

wake up from.

“You have to move on,” I said. “I know it

isn’t easy but you don’t have a choice.

Remember that it could have been worse,

but you’re alive and well. Think of it this

way. You’re free from a friendship with a

potential murderer. Henry is free from a

relationship with a girl who could commit

murder at any point. Prison’s going to do

her much good. Perhaps when she’s

released sometime in future, she’ll turn a

new leaf, be a better person. Who knows,

her time behind bars, or wherever she finds

herself, could cause her to reevaluate her

life and want to be a better person, because

trust me, she wouldn’t want to end up there

a second time. So cheer up, please, and

move on. It’s all for the best.”

Doreen forced a smile. “Easy for you to say

this, eh? I guess other than being the

school sleuth, you’ve become a counselor.

Way to go.”

Indistinct voices filled the classroom,

forcing us to acknowledge the full room. Sat

with Flora in the seat directly in front of

me, Amarachi waited for my discussion with

Doreen to be over. Our other seatmate, the

unwanted one, had not arrived yet.

“Thank you so much for your help,” Doreen


Uncertain of how to respond, I nodded. After

a moment or two, I added, “If you need

someone to talk to, I’ll be here.”

“Okay.” She rose to her feet and headed out

of the classroom. Almost immediately,

Amarachi occupied the recently vacated

seat. The look on her face said nothing


“Girls are pissed off,” she said. “They think

the camera’s your idea.”

“It was all Raheem’s idea,” I said. “I wasn’t

even okay with it. Still am against it. But

Sir Amadi saw nothing wrong with it, so

here we are. Why does everyone think they

can just say rubbish about me and get away

with it? Hell! I’m done being quiet about


Springing to my feet, my voice flared, “I am

going to give these people a piece of my

mind! They can think what they want


Amarachi pulled me back to my seat with

such intensity that forced a gasp out of my


“What is wrong with you?” she whispered,

trying hard not to make us the object of

everyone’s attention. But we already had

everyone’s attention. “Just calm down, will


My eyes zeroed in on the empty space

between Amarachi and I, where Raheem

would sit once he arrived. It seemed he had

claimed my late coming title for himself. I

tried to force my thoughts away from him,

but luck sailed away from my grasp.

Now that we’d completed our assignment,

would we pretend we’d never been

acquaintances for a day or two, put it all

behind us and return to being strangers who

disliked each other? Or would we become


These thoughts revolved around my head as

I rose to my feet, joining the others in

saying good morning to Madam Charity as

she strode in. Only after we were back in

our seats did she let her gaze scan the

class. This had become her ritual —

scanning the class to spot anything out of


Her eyes narrowed and I knew she’d found

something. I followed her eyes till my gaze

fell on a classmate, John, playing third

wheel on a seat other than the one assigned

to him.

“Is that your seat?” she asked. She looked

over to Steve, John’s lone seatmate.

“Sorry,” John said. Grabbing his sling bag,

he left for his seat.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Raheem

step into the class. I turned to shoot him a

full stare. He caught my eye, but I didn’t

look away. My flaming gaze explored every

inch of his body, starting from his rockstar

hairstyle to his pair of sneakers.

If it were another student having facial hair,

dressed in sneakers when the school

recommended formal shoes, Madam Charity

would flare. But she did nothing, said

nothing. Smiling at him, she seemed to

admire his elegance. He strode past her and

muttered his good morning.

“Good morning,” Madam Charity echoed.

“You’re right on time. Class is just about to


I rolled my eyes. Of course she would not

say a thing about Raheem’s late coming.

“Did you get a tutor?” she asked.

“Hired one,” Raheem said. “A much better

tutor than the brightest student here could

ever be.”

If he expected his words to hit home, he

would be disappointed by the amusement

on my face. But he didn’t turn to find out.

“That settles it then.” Madam Charity

watched him move to join a pair of boys on

their seat. Raheem waited for them to

adjust, but they didn’t.

Madam Charity smiled at him. “Are you

forgetting your seat?”

“Of course not,” Raheem said. “I’m just

open to new things. Besides, I have a

feeling I will be more comfortable here.”

Just to drive home a point, he made a

special effort to lock eyes with me for a

second too long.

“We have rules here, Raheem,” Madam

Charity said. Everyone could see past her

facade. We all knew she had forced herself

to say those words.

“Are you sure you don’t want to make an

exception for me?” Raheem asked.

Had Madam Charity been ten years younger,

she would melt before Raheem’s intense

gaze. But even now, she did melt—if smiling

like an idiot counted.

She sighed. “Rules are rules—”

“Go on,” I said.

Everyone turned to look at me. Inwardly, I

sighed. When would they stop being

astonished to hear my voice? They had to

get used to this. This was the real me. Not

the dumb, shy girl I had pretended to be all

my life.

“Give him the exception you’re dying to

give,” I said. “It’s plain as day you want to.”

Amarachi and Flora gasped. But I paid them

no mind. They probably thought my new

found esteem would get me into trouble

sometime soon. And I didn’t care. At least

not now.

Now that everyone had my attention,

including Raheem and Madam Charity who

constituted my primary audience, I rose to

my feet. Dad had taught me that if engaged

in a conversation with an older one who had

some level of authority over me, I best be

on my feet until told otherwise.

“I don’t know what he is,” I said. “Trump’s

heir or what? I don’t get why everyone

aches to give him special treatment. He is

allowed to drive, and I doubt he is up to

legal age. He is allowed to keep facial hair

and look like a rockstar, while other guys

are all clean shaven. He’s allowed to wear

sneakers while we are all confined to formal

shoes. Look what happened with John. Poor

John. You made him return to his seat. And

now, Raheem has done the very same thing

and you’re dying to treat him as a special

child. What is wrong with everyone around

here? Is he the director’s illegitimate child

or what?”

Madam Charity’s lips flew apart, but

Raheem held out a hand, interrupting her

before she even said a word. His eyes

burned into mine. They held no resentment,

but interest.

“Do you have a problem with me, Miss

Brown?” he asked.

“Hah!” I scoffed. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

“Then you best watch your tongue,” he

warned. “Or you’ll get into trouble.”

“Too late,” Madam Charity said. “She got

into trouble the moment she spoke.”

“So much for freedom of speech,” I


“Find yourself in the Principal’s office,”

Madam Charity said. “And account for your

loose tongue.”

“How about I account for your partiality

too?” I asked. “Sounds fair.”

Raheem grinned. “Fair enough.”

Moments passed and Madam Charity said

nothing. This had to be her way of waving

off her request that I go see Sir Amadi.


More stories @

Winking, Raheem flashed me a wry smile I

found contagious. My struggle to swallow

my smile proved futile. Seemingly satisfied,

Raheem turned around and occupied his

new seat, with Eric and Gift as his


I settled in my seat and plucked my

notebook from my backpack, feigning

oblivion of Amarachi staring like I’d grown a

horn. I turned the pages till a blank page

stared at me. Staring back at it, I awaited

English class.

Madam Charity spoke after forever. “The

school is divided now. While most are

against your meddling around and handing

the said student over to the authorities,

only a fraction is in support of your


Although she referred to Raheem and I, she

didn’t for once stare in my direction. So

much for claiming my right to speak.

“And where do you stand?” Raheem asked.

“With or against?”

“I’m a neutral human,” Madam Charity said.

“But even at that, I’m impressed by the way

you followed up the case.”

“And obviously you’re not easily

impressed?” Raheem said.

“This is so wrong!” Cynthia said. “Friends

fight! They fight over trivial matters. Why

does someone have to be tagged a murderer

for fighting with her friend? This makes no


“It was no trivial matter,” Madam Charity

clarified. “Neither was it a friendly fight. It

was Nengi’s attempt to keep her secret

safe. While in a relationship with Doreen’s

brother, I’m sure you all know him, Nengi

committed two abortions. And none of those

children were his. Sadly, she lost her womb

in the second abortion. By accident, Doreen

found out. She didn’t let Nengi know she

knew her secret. Nengi on the other hand,

didn’t let her know she knew she’d found

out. She knew Doreen would tell Henry and

it would all be over. No one would want

their brother tied to such immoral girl,

would they? And Nengi didn’t want that to

happen. She knew if she didn’t stop Doreen,

everyone would know, including her parents.

Her parents, being the staunch Catholics

they are, would be highly disappointed. And

so she didn’t wait to find out their reaction.

You know the rest.”

“And so she tried to kill her best friend,” a

girl said. “It still makes no sense.”

“If she intended to kill her, how come

Doreen still lives?” another asked.

“She chickened out at the last minute,”

Madam Charity said. “But she was too

scared to call for help. Some of her

classmates even testified to seeing her

disillusionment and absent mindedness

during that period.”

“It’s depraved that anyone would try to kill

their best friend,” Rose said.

“Depraved, yes,” Madam Charity said. “But

it does happen. Have none of you heard of

what happened to Skylar Neese?”

She trained her eyes on Raheem, believing

he knew the details. When he didn’t

respond, she continued, still searching his

eyes. “On the night of July 5, 2012?”

Allowing her gaze hover above everyone,

which by divine intervention included me,

she hoped someone, anyone knew. But

nobody said a word.

Giving up, she told the story, “In a remote

area of Pennsylvania, Skylar Neese was

stabbed fifty times with a kitchen knife. And

guess who did it? Her two best friends!

Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy! And what

was their motive? They didn’t want to be

friends with her anymore! It’s sick how

depraved the world gets by the second.

These children are psychopaths in the

making. I’m just so disturbed our school

sheltered one of them for so long a time.”

For a moment, she allowed thoughts

overwhelm her, and then she shrugged.

Picking her textbook from the desk before

her, she said, “Let’s get down to business.”

“About time,” I muttered.


It took forty minutes, the going off of the

bell, and the absence of Madam Charity for

me to speak again. “I’m not staying for


“Oh, you’re off to meet fairy godmother,”

Amarachi teased.

“Right,” I said.

“What was that about?” Amarachi asked, her

face stern. “You almost got yourself into


“But it didn’t happen.”

“It almost did,” Flora’s seatmate, Ibim said.

“Nearly cannot kill a bird, can it?” I asked.

Without awaiting a reply, I made for the


“You’re early,” Stella said. Sat behind the

counter, she emptied spoons of cereal into

her mouth. “Give me a moment to finish


She had all the time in the world.

Wordlessly, I perched on the bed I’d been

using for the past three days. Quiet took

dwelling in our midst. The sound of Stella

chewing on her food sought to sever the

silence, but it held no such strength.

Stepping out of my shoes, I took off my

jacket, and rolled my sleeves, baring my

skin for what would come. I lay on my side

and faced the wall opposite me. In no time,

I had Stella beside me, preparing to

administer the final drip.

“You won’t even ask if I had breakfast?” I


Stella thought for a moment. “You would

not come here on an empty stomach.”

“You forgot to ask,” I said.

“I didn’t.”

Was it just me or did she not look well? I

didn’t want to pry, but— “Are you…okay?”

“Yeah.” She smiled to reassure me.

I smiled back, but it lasted a second shorter

than her forced smile. “Nice try. Now,

seriously, what’s wrong?”

A genuine smile lit up her face as she

tightened the tourniquet around my arm.

“What now? You know me well enough to

tell my lie from truth?”

“If you’re thinking about yesterday and the

game…” I started, but she waved off my

words with a backward flip of her hand.

“I’m not thinking about that,” she said.

“It’s fine if you won’t talk about it,” I said.

“I won’t insist.”

“Not everyone who come into your life is

here to stay,” she said. The look on my face

said ‘tell me something I don’t already


Stella continued, “While some are here to

stay, some are not. They’re only around to

teach you a vital lesson. And then they are

gone. They don’t necessarily die. They just

stop being a part of your life.”

I didn’t like the direction of her words. I

didn’t like the rather wistful look on her

face. A question revolved around my mind.

“Are you leaving me too?”

Although my question almost made no

sense because Stella had been serving as

the school nurse for more than ten years, I

had to ask.

“Are you?” I asked.

“No, dear,” she said. “I walked into your life.

There is no way I’m walking out. I’m here to

stay. Okay?”

I wanted to believe her, but I couldn’t. “But

you sound like you’re making plans to


Stella looked away for a few moments. She

seemed to be debating over something.

Whatever it was, I hoped she rounded up


Looking back at me, she said, “My job as

the school nurse ends today.”

“What?” I gasped. “Why? But you said you’d

be the school nurse to save lives.”

Frantically, I searched for a possible cause

of her job termination. “Is it because of

Bloody Miri? Sir Amadi already agreed to

install CCTVs in the restroom. The game

will never be played again, I promise.

Please, you don’t have to go. Please, stay.”

“It’s not about the game,” she said. “My

deal was only to last for twelve years. I’m


“I don’t understand.”

“I made a promise to do this for Mimi for

twelve years, since she wanted to be a

nurse. The twelfth year is ended.”

“Do you have to go?”

“I’m getting married, Vicky. I have to travel

to the Uk. That’s where the wedding will


My throat tightened at the sound of this.

She was getting married. On a normal day, I

would be happy for her, and I wanted to be,

but I couldn’t get past the feeling of

emptiness crawling into my soul. I knew

how selfish I sounded, but I could only think

of what would become of me. I’d been close

to her for barely three days, but getting

used to her came naturally, as though she’d

been destined to be a part of my life.

Knowing her had replaced my misery with

joy, my tears with smiles. Knowing her had

undone my stepmother’s evil, restoring my

place as the daughter of Mr. Brown.

With my fairy godmother leaving for the Uk,

I would never see her again, unless she

returned sometime in the future. It hurt me,

deep inside. The bareness of her departure

brought to mind the emptiness I had felt

when my father died.

Forcing my mind away from my loss of

hope, I asked, “When’s the wedding?”

“In two weeks time,” she said.

“My fairy godmother is getting married and I

don’t even get to attend,” I said.

“I’ll send you pictures,” she suggested. “And

videos. You won’t even feel like you missed

a thing.”

“I don’t have a phone,” I said.

Ignoring my pitiful statement, she said,

“Vicky dear, don’t feel like this or I’ll feel

bad. I would stay if I could, but I have to

go. Next week, someone’s taking over.

Elizabeth Monroe from the Uk. She’s a

great nurse.”

“Great. You’re going to the Uk, so they

send someone from there as a


“How cliché, right?” Stella teased. “She’s a

great replacement.”

“There is no replacing you,” I said. “I will

miss you, fairy godmother.”

She pulled me into a hug. “And I you, my


“This is our goodbye?”

“There is no goodbye,” she said.

To be continued

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